State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering (IPO) will be the biggest in history, but will fall short of the towering $2 trillion valuation long sought by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Aramco priced its IPO at 32 riyals ($8.53) per share, the top of its indicative range, the company said in a statement, raising $25.6 billion and beating Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s (BABA.N) record $25 billion listing in 2014.
At that level, Aramco has a market valuation of $1.7 trillion, comfortably overtaking Apple Inc (AAPL.O) as the world’s most valuable listed firm. But the listing, expected later this month on the Riyadh stock exchange, is a far cry from the blockbuster debut originally envisaged by the Crown Prince.
Aramco did not say when shares would start trading on the Saudi stock market but two sources said it was scheduled for Dec. 11. Saudi Arabia relied on domestic and regional investors to sell a 1.5% stake after lukewarm interest from abroad, even at the reduced valuation of $1.7 trillion.
Demand from institutional investors, including Saudi funds and companies, reached $106 billion, while retail investment’s demand hit $12.6 billion.
Around 4.9 million Saudi retail investors have bought shares in the oil giant, including 2.3 million aged between 31-45.
Aramco’s advisors said they may partly or fully exercise a 15% “greenshoe” option, allowing it to increase the size of the deal to a maximum of $29.4 billion.
The pricing comes as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is gearing up to deepen oil supply cuts to support prices, provided it can strike a deal later this week with allies such as Russia.
Climate change concerns, political risk and a lack of corporate transparency put foreign investors off the offering, forcing the kingdom to ditch ambitions to raise as much as $100 billion via an international and domestic listing of a 5% stake.
Even at a $1.7 trillion valuation, international institutions baulked, prompting Aramco to scrap roadshows in New York and London and focus instead on marketing a 1.5% stake to Saudi investors and wealthy Gulf Arab allies. Saudi banks offered citizens cheap credit to bid for shares.
The IPO is the culmination of a years-long effort to sell a portion of the world’s most profitable company and raise funds to help diversify the kingdom away from oil and create jobs for a growing population. “The amount raised by the IPO itself is relatively contained given the size of the economy and medium-term funding requirement of the transformation plan,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.—Reuters